A long day with Phil
A Long Day With Phil
Okay, I admit it. I root hard for Phil. We all have our favorite athletes for one reason or another and maybe just a handful or less throughout a lifetime that really grab you. With me as a kid it was Muhammad Ali and Brooks Robinson and then a little later there was a passion for Jimmy Connors and Larry Bird.
Ali, was well, Ali. He mesmerized me. I lived and died with his fights. Robinson was just the best glove in the world for the Baltimore Orioles. You couldn’t move me from the television when Connors was playing particularly against Borg or McEnroe and Bird was mandatory viewing.
Then there’s Phil. He makes you live on the edge, he always has. He is famed announcer Jim McKay’s “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” He has always left you shaking your head in amazement, disappointment and wonderment. He has you wanting to bang your head on the wall or leaping off the couch in exultation. He just leaves you in knots.
He’s the guy who can come thisclose to making three eagles in a row at Augusta and then miss a three-foot putt with the lead on the line. You almost cover your eyes when he swings, never knowing whether you are going to get one of the best short games ever or a ball six fairways over. It is all one part beautiful, one part agonizing.
He’s won 41 golf tournaments including three Masters. He is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. There has been plenty to cheer about. The guy flies his own jet, signs more autographs than most major league teams and will fly home to California to attend his daughter’s 8th-grade graduation, fly back at 4:30 a.m. and tee off for the U.S. Open at 7:30 a.m. in Philadelphia. Oh yeah, and shoot 67.
He’s been the stalwart family man, always there and it wasn’t that long ago his wife and mother were both going through battles with breast cancer. And Phil has always been there.
But, he’ll break your heart too. He’s the swashbuckler, the guy who takes chances with no sometimes needed filter on the most creative of minds. You love him for it, as a fan you die with him because of it. You have to love him for it, at least in my case, but you do so at your own risk.
This is the guy who was on the verge of winning the U.S. Open and hit a ball off the top of hospitality tent at Winged Foot in 2006 and then made another bad decision and clipped a tree on his way to blowing the U.S. Open a few years ago.
Five times, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, he had finished second in the U.S. Open, the tournament he desperately wants to win. It got away from him one more time Sunday at Merion. Make that six times a runner-up.
This time it was Justin Rose that made just enough shots, stayed away from just enough mistakes to stick another dagger in Mickelson’s U.S. Open dream.
The Open isn’t supposed to be Mickelson’s venue. He is a guy that sprays the ball and recovers with brilliance. The Open is penal if you don’t hit the ball straight. Yet, Phil has harnessed his brilliance to make a living in the mix. He just can’t separate himself from the mix.
I really thought Sunday would be his day. He had his swing under control, it was his birthday, it was his time. Finally – Phil Mickelson U.S. Open champion.
He did nothing early, missing a couple of makeable birdie putts and then jarred a wedge from 75-feet on No. 10 for an eagle and a one-shot lead. I leaped off the couch with my own fist pump. That was his jump start I and about 10 million other viewers figured.
It didn’t happen. Justin Rose was steady. Phil was not. Bogeys on No. 13 and on the 121-yard 15th, did him in. You kept hoping right up until his final chance a wedge from off the green on No. 18 cruised past the hole but you knew this ending. We’ve seen it before.
It was deflating, as much for Mickelson as for his fans. He called it `heartbreaking’ and his best chance of all of them. I just kind of sat there drained in my disappointment. Like I said, I root hard for Phil.
You get the idea that it won’t happen for Phil at the U.S. Open. I wouldn’t rule him out but you only get so many chances. He’s a great golfer and by many accounts a great guy. He even has been great at the U.S. Open if you look at his results.
He just hasn’t been great enough. Father’s Day was a great day. The ending just wasn’t great. But that’s what you get with Phil. He takes you to the brink and so many times he has finished it off.
Just not Sunday. Just not in the U.S. Open. Great theatre with a not so great ending if you root hard for Phil.